Right: Katharine Susannah Prichard (right) with the writer Eleanor Dark on the verandah in 1948. (Photo: NLA).
The verandah at the front of Katharine’s Place has long been a place for parties and conversations.
In September 1926 Katharine Susannah Prichard and her husband Hugo Throssell hosted a gipsy-themed party for the engagement of Hugo’s niece, Grace Throssell. Dressed as gipsies, Katharine and Hugo sang a greeting to the couple and ‘danced on the grass to the music of fiddles. Foxtrots on the verandah interspersed a varied programme.’ It was the foxtrot that year; in 1927 it was the Charleston. ‘We have… parties on the verandah’, Katharine wrote to Vance Palmer, ‘where everybody practices the Charleston with various results. It’s so thoroughly ridiculous, but splendid exercise really. When you see fat middle-aged men & women taking themselves quite seriously. Trying to do the absurd shuffle & genuflexion!’
In My Father’s Son, Katharine’s son, Ric Throssell, dates the construction of the verandah to about 1930, but the 1927 letter from Katharine suggests it was built earlier. Ric thought that, like the workroom, it was paid for with The Bulletin prize money for Coonardoo. Hugo ‘got a couple of Italian quarrymen from the old Boya quarry to put up a wide verandah made from solid jarrah beams resting on a colonnade of six columns of local rock. When the climbing blackboy roses, wisteria, and currants grew, sheltering the house from the late afternoon sun, it was a place where Jim [Hugo] and Katharine could drink their evening sherry, as the first cool whisper of the southerly stirred the leaves.’
Video footage taken by John Gilchrist in the last year of Katharine’s life shows her, in colour, sitting on the verandah drinking tea with friends. With the same distinctive stone pillars, it’s uncanny how similar the verandah looks to today. One could argue that at KSP Writers’ Centre we have a historical duty to carry on with socialising and perhaps even dancing on the verandah at Katharine’s Place.
Swan Express, 10 September 1926, 7.
KSP to Vance Palmer, 23 June 1927, Palmer Papers, NLA, MS1174/1/2975
Throssell, Ric, My Father’s Son, Melbourne: Heinemann, 1989, 97.
West Australian 15 June 1935, 5.
If funding can be found, KSP Writers’ Centre will be creating a heritage trail in the grounds of Katharine’s Place with signs marking sites significant to Katharine Susannah Prichard’s life. This ‘KSP Heritage’ series of articles about the sites provides information which will be used for the interpretive signage.